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SLB acquires majority ownership in carbon capture firm

SLB will pay $380m to purchase 80% of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS (ACCH), which holds the business of ACC, and will contribute the SLB carbon capture business to the combined entity.

NYSE-listed SLB has agreed to combine its carbon capture business with Aker Carbon Capture (ACC) to support accelerated industrial decarbonization at scale.

The combination will leverage ACC’s commercial carbon capture product offering and SLB’s new technology developments and industrialization capability, according to a news release. It will create a vehicle for accelerating the introduction of disruptive early-stage technology into the global market on a commercial, proven platform. Following the transaction, SLB will own 80% of the combined business and ACC will own 20%.

SLB will pay NOK 4.12 billion ($380m) to purchase 80% of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS (ACCH), which holds the business of ACC, and will contribute the SLB carbon capture business to the combined entity. SLB may also make additional payments of up to NOK 1.36 billion over the next three years based on the performance of the business.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close by the end of the second quarter, 2024.

“For CCUS to have the expected impact on supporting global net-zero ambitions, it will need to scale up 100-200 times in less than three decades,” said Olivier Le Peuch, chief executive officer, SLB. “Crucial to this scale-up is the ability to lower capture costs, which often represent as much as 50-70% of the total spend of a CCUS project. We are excited to create this business with ACC to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies that will shift the economics of carbon capture across high-emitting industrial sectors.”

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KBR awarded tech contract for Texas blue ammonia plant

KBR has been awarded a technology contract by Tecnimont S.p.A. for OCI NV’s low-carbon blue ammonia project in Texas.

KBR has been awarded a technology contract by Tecnimont S.p.A. for Holland-based OCI NV’s low-carbon blue ammonia project in Texas, according to a news release.

Under the terms of the contract, KBR will supply the technology license, basic engineering design, proprietary equipment and catalyst for the 1.1 million ton per annum blue ammonia plant. Targeting completion by 2025, the project will be designed to transition from blue to green ammonia production as green hydrogen becomes available at larger scale in the future.

KBR, based in Houston, has licensed and designed 252 grassroots ammonia plants since 1944. Around half of global licensed ammonia capacity uses KBR-designed plants.

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Hydrogen investors like patents, IEA says

More than half of the USD 10bn of venture capital investment into hydrogen firms in 2011-2020 went to start-ups with patents, according to an IEA study.

More than half of the USD 10bn of venture capital investment into hydrogen firms in 2011-2020 went to start-ups with patents, according to a joint study of patents by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Start-ups with patents represented less than a third of companies in the report’s data set, according to a news release summarizing the findings.

The study found that holding a patent is also a good indicator of whether a start-up will keep attracting finance, noting that “more than 80% of late-stage investment in hydrogen start-ups in 2011-2020 went to companies that had already filed a patent application in areas such as electrolysis, fuel cells, or low-emissions methods for producing hydrogen from gas.”

The percentage increases to 95% when funding acquired in the IPO/post-IPO stage is taken into consideration.

Overall, the report found that hydrogen technology development is shifting towards low-emissions solutions such as electrolysis. Global patenting in hydrogen is led by the European Union and Japan, which account for 28% and 24% respectively of all IPFs filed in this period, with significant growth in the past decade. The leading countries in Europe are Germany (11% of the global total), France (6%), and the Netherlands (3%).

The United States, with 20% of all hydrogen-related patents, is the only major innovation center where international hydrogen patent applications declined in the past decade. International patenting activity in hydrogen technologies remained modest in South Korea and China but is on the rise. In addition to these five main innovation centers, other countries generating significant volumes of hydrogen patents include the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Canada.

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Moelis launches clean technology group

Moelis has hired from Citi to co-lead the group, which will focus on energy transition and decarbonization.

Moelis & Company, a leading global independent investment bank, today announced the formation of its Clean Technology Group and the appointment of Arash Nazhad as a Managing Director in Houston to co-lead the new group, according to a press release.

The Firm’s dedicated focus on energy transition and sustainability will expand Moelis’s existing efforts across this dynamic global sector, including having advised on more than $50 billion of transactions globally.

Arash will co-lead the group alongside current Moelis Managing Director Rick Polhemus, who has a longstanding focus on a range of growth-driven technology, electrification/mobility, sustainability, and services sectors. Together they will partner with and draw on the Firm’s industry expertise in Energy, Power & Infrastructure, Chemicals, Metals & Mining, Technology, and Services as well as advisory capabilities in M&A, Capital Markets, Capital Structure, and Private Funds to bring bespoke and innovative advisory and capital formation solutions to clients navigating this evolving ecosystem.

Arash brings nearly 20 years of investment banking experience and deep expertise in clean energy technology. He joins from Citi where he provided strategic advice and capital markets solutions to companies across clean tech, energy, metals, technology, industrials, power, and the sustainability landscape. Prior to Citi, Arash spent nearly a decade at the Norwegian international energy company Equinor, in various operational and leadership roles and began his career working on Clean Development Mechanism projects across East Asia.

Jeff Raich, Co-Founder and Co-President at Moelis commented, “The formation of Moelis’s Clean Technology Group underscores our continued dedication to supporting our clients as they navigate decarbonization across a range of industries and end markets, as well as the breadth of new companies, technologies and services that are established to support this transition. This will be a long-term secular trend driving the investment decisions and strategic direction of our clients. We are pleased to welcome Arash, whose expertise and complementary capabilities make him and Rick uniquely positioned to lead our efforts and expand opportunities for clients in this rapidly changing environment.”

Navid Mahmoodzadegan, Co-Founder and Co-President at Moelis added, “The energy transition that is underway demands integrated advisory services, access to capital, and strategic long-term planning. Achieving net-zero emissions will require a significant increase in spending, and our dedicated clean energy efforts better position us to be a seamless partner to our strategic, financial sponsor, and venture capital clients as we leverage our dynamic advisory practice and global connectivity.”

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IPP retains banker for California plant sale

An independent power producer has retained a banker for a sale of a decades-old gas plant in California. Aging gas plants have been in the sights of clean fuels developers looking to retrofit or use facilities for clean fuel production and combustion.

GenOn, an independent power producer, has hired Solomon Partners to sell a 54 MW gas plant in California, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The plant, Ellwood, is located in Goleta, in Santa Barbara County, and was shuttered and retired by GenOn as of 2019. It reached COD in 1973 and ran two Pratt & Whitney FT4C-1 gas turbine engines.

Ellwood previously interconnected via Southern California Edison, a utility that is pursuing multiple natural gas decarbonization projects, including a hydrogen-blending initiative with Bloom Energy.

A teaser for the sale of Ellwood, which was issued last week, notes there is an opportunity to install a battery energy storage system at the site, one of the sources added.

Elsewhere in California, investment firm Climate Adaptive Infrastructure and developer Meridian Clean Energy are seeking to demonstrate decarbonization in peaker plants at the much newer gas-fired Sentinel Energy Center. Their plans include hydrogen blending.

GenOn declined to comment. Solomon Partners did not respond to requests for comment.

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California carbon transformation firm lands new CFO

The Bay Area company is looking toward a Series C before an IPO in a couple of years.

Jimmy Chuang, the former CFO for Strata Clean Energy, has left that company to take the same role at carbon transformation startup Twelve, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Twelve recently completed a $130m Series B led by DCVC and has raised USD 200m in equity to date, the sources said.

The Bay Area company is looking toward a Series C that would be much larger, before an IPO in a couple of years, one of the sources said. The company is in talks with bulge bracket bankers now but has not hired anyone.

Twelve did not respond to requests for comment. Strata declined to comment.

Twelve creates materials, like chemicals and fuels, from captured carbon. The company recently signed an MoU with Microsoft and Alaska Airlines to collaborate on the production of sustainable aviation fuel.

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Exclusive: Riverstone Credit spinout preparing $500m fundraise

Breakwall Capital, a new fund put together by former Riverstone Credit fund managers, is preparing to raise $500m to make project loans in decarbonization as well as the traditional energy sector. We spoke to founders Christopher Abbate and Daniel Flannery.

Breakwall Capital is preparing to launch a $500m fundraising effort for a new fund – called Breakwall Energy Credit I – that will focus on investments in decarbonization as well as the traditional energy sector.

The founders of the new fund, Christopher Abbate, Daniel Flannery, and Jamie Brodsky, have spent the last 10 years making oil and gas credit investments at Riverstone Credit, while pivoting in recent years to investments in sustainability and decarbonization.

In addition to bringing in fresh capital, Breakwall will manage funds raised from Dutch trading firm Vitol, for a fund called Valor Upstream Credit Partners; and the partners will help wind down the remaining roughly $1bn of investments held in two Riverstone funds.

Drawing on their experience at Riverstone, Breakwall will continue to make investments through sustainability-linked loans across the energy value chain, but will also invest in the upstream oil and gas sector through Valor and the new Breakwall fund.

“We’re not abandoning the conventional hydrocarbon economy,” Flannery said in an interview. “We’re embracing the energy transition economy and we’re doing it all with the same sort of mindset that everything we do is encouraging our borrowers to be more sustainable.”

In splitting from Riverstone Credit, where they made nearly $6bn of investments, the founders of Breakwall said they have maintained cordial relations, such that Breakwall will seek to tap some of the same LPs that invested in Riverstone. The partners have also lined up a revenue sharing arrangement with Riverstone so that interests are aligned on fund management.

The primary reason for the spinout, according to Abbate, “was really to give both sides more resources to work with: on their side, less headcount relative to AUM, and on our side, more equity capital to reward people with and incent people with and recruit people with, because Riverstone was not a firm that broadly distributed equity to the team.”

Investment thesis

A typical Breakwall loan deal will involve a small or mid-sized energy company that either can’t get a bank loan or can’t get enough of a bank loan to finance a capital-intensive project. Usually, a considerable amount of equity has already been invested to get the project to a certain maturity level, and it needs a bridge to completion.

“We designed our entire investment philosophy around being a transitional credit capital provider to these companies who only needed our cost of capital for a very specific period of time,” Flannery said.

Breakwall provides repayable short-duration bridge-like solutions to these growing energy companies that will eventually take out the loan with a lower cost of capital or an asset sale, or in the case of an upstream business, pay them off with cash flow.

“We’re solving a need that exists because there’s been a flock of capital away from the upstream universe,” he added.

Often, Breakwall loan deals, which come at pricing in the SOFR+ 850bps range, will be taken out by the leveraged loan or high yield market at lower pricing in the SOFR+ 350bps range, once a project comes online, Abbate said. 

Breakwall’s underwriting strategy, as such, evaluates a project’s chances of success and the obstacles to getting built. 

The partners point to a recent loan to publicly listed renewable natural gas producer Clean Energy – a four-year $150m sustainability-linked senior secured term loan – as one of their most successful, where most of the proceeds were used to build RNG facilities. Sustainability-linked loans tie loan economics to key performance indicators (KPIs) aimed at incentivizing cleaner practices.

In fact, in clean fuels, their investment thesis centers on the potential of RNG as a viable solution for sectors like long-haul trucking, where electrification may present challenges. 

“We are big believers in RNG,” Flannery said. “We believe that the combination of the demand and the credit regimes in certain jurisdictions make that a very compelling investment thesis.”

EPIC loan

In another loan deal, the Breakwall partners previously financed the construction of EPIC Midstream’s propane pipeline from Corpus Christi east to Sweeny, Texas.

Originally a $150m project, Riverstone provided $75m of debt, while EPIC committed the remaining capital, with COVID-induced cost overruns leading to a total of $95m of equity provided by the midstream company. 

The only contract the propane project had was a minimum volume commitment with EPIC’s Y-Grade pipeline, because the Y-Grade pipeline, which ran to the Robstown fractionator near Corpus Christi, needed an outlet to the Houston petrochemical market, as there wasn’t enough export demand out of Corpus Christi.

“So critical infrastructure: perfect example of what we do, because if your only credit is Y-Grade, you’re just a derivative to the Y-Grade cost of capital,” Abbate said.

Asked if Breakwall would look at financing the construction of a 500-mile hydrogen pipeline that EPIC is evaluating, Abbate answered affirmatively.

“If those guys called me and said, ‘Hey, we want to build this 500-mile pipeline,’ I’d look at it,” he said. “I have to see what the contracts look like, but that’s exactly what type of project we would like to look at.”

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